The post-2015 environmental framework has dominated recent international discourse as the international community prepares for December’s impending COP 21 meeting in Paris. The ubiquity of the post-2015 discussion has been accompanied by an unprecedented level of attention and scrutiny paid to the plans and concessions that nations are willing to commit towards preventing a two-degree celsius rise in global temperatures. However, while the intergovernmental discussion draws the most attention, a meeting in Paris this week aims to expand the horizons of this discussion to include an equally crucial set of actors: the private sector.
This United Nations Business and Climate Summit, inspired by Ban Ki Moon’s call for the private sector to act as a driver for positive environmental change, seeks to bring together business and government leaders in order to develop and implement “forward-looking strategies” and “ambitious policies” to ultimately facilitate larger scale, more tangible progress and solutions. Additionally, the summit will pose questions regarding how government and business can cooperate towards growing economies while also limiting global temperature increases, as well as what roles carbon pricing and similar measures will play in economic innovation and the generation of additional markets and employment. Like any global summit with such lofty ambitions, it is difficult to avoid skepticism; however, the Business and Climate Summit’s attempt to create an atmosphere geared towards a balance of long-term economic growth and environmental responsibility inspires hope that the concepts of sustainability and resilience will, in fact, have their day in the private sector.
Though admittedly optimistic, this conference also holds significance at a scale larger than the environmental issues to be discussed, namely the independent activism of the private sector. Generally speaking, the problem of striking a balance between public and private sector commitments to policy change is persistent and transcendent throughout a broad host of issues. Whether it be commitment to policy change in the interest of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing respect for human rights, bolstering fidelity in multi-national economic practices, or any other source of debate, the weight has traditionally burdened the public sector to meet, discuss, and resolve conflicts which integrally involve the private sector. Consequently, the efficacy (or lack thereof) of these resolutions is dependent on the assumption that governments can effectively reign in the private sector through measures of incentives and/or regulations. Unfortunately, an inevitable stalemate occurs where mechanisms for progress come up short in defense of the free market, and little change occurs in the private sector. For decades this paradox has demanded participation from the private sector in order to remedy this vicious cycle, and this Business and Climate Summit undoubtedly represents a significant stride in the right direction. Thus, this summit is not only remarkably important from the perspective of environmental preservation – ensuring that the private sector commits itself to responsibility and accountability in protecting our planet – but embodies a progressive stride in the much larger discussion of public/private communication and cooperation.
Ultimately, the news of this conference has been tremendously refreshing, and the results will be eagerly awaited. Incorporating the private sector in commitments to environmental change represents a covering of bases and an expansion of the groups actively involved in preserving the environment, which only promises and greater and more comprehensive approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adopting more responsible practices, in aggregate, for businesses to both profit and protect simultaneously.
IDEAS For UN